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History of
Jefferson County Illinois

Jefferson county, so called in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and the reputed writer and signer of the Declaration of Independence. As designated by Legislative act, it is situated southeast of the intersection of the old Ohio & Mississippi (now Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern) Railroad, and is bounded on the north by Marion county, on the east by Wayne and Hamilton counties, on the south by Franklin county, on the west by Washington and Perry counties, and has an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles. When it was "first attacked" by the settlers, about four-fifths of the territory was timber land, and one fifth prairie, the latter being in elevated levels between the watercourses.
The first settlements of Jefferson County were made under great difficulties, and amid hardships and dangers. Most of the settlers were from the states south of the Ohio river, and were poor in wordly wealth called by some "poor white trash." But while they had but little education, and comparitively no wealth, they were men and women of sterling worth physically stalwart and strenuous, looking upon labor as an honor, and a glory, which nothing could be accomplished without.
[Source: History of Jefferson County, Illinois, By: John A. Wall, 1909 - Submitted By: Cindy Ford]


The county of Jefferson was organized in 1819, a few months after Illinois became a state. The new county which bore the name of the author of the Declaration of Independence was to contain sixteen townships.
The next major step after establishing the boundaries of the county was to decide on the county seat of justice was to be. The decision that was to be made was to be permanent. The founding fathers decided that the capital of the newly organized county was to be where the city of Mt. Vernon, Illinois is now located.
It will be interesting to know that Jefferson County was organized much sooner than many of the other counties in Illinois. Marion County, which borders Jefferson County on the north, was not organized until 1823, five years after Congress had admitted the new state.
Mount Vernon has had two names, founders of the newly established hamlet were desirous of giving their new town a name that in their opinion would sound beautiful, and they first named it Mount Pleasant. The center of the hamlet was located on the summit of a slope, and it is believed that this is where they concieved the idea of using the word Mount. The slope mentioned is the location of the Jefferson County Court House.
The name George Washington has always been popular with the American people, and he is the idol of many. Following the war for Independence, the "Father of His Country" and his home at Mt. Vernon, Virginia, were already held in high esteem by the people of the country. Not too long after the hamlet had been given it;s original name, the early inhabitants of the community decided that they wanted their town to be named after the home of their hero. This idea met popular approval of the settlers of the community. As a result of the strong demand for the name to be changed, it was given the official name of Mount Vernon.
The admission of Illinois to the union occured December 3, 1818, the County of Jefferson was organized March 26, 1819, a period of 113 days later. The official beginning of Mt. Vernon took place June 7, 1819, seventy-three days after the organization; it was only 186 days after the state had officially been admitted to the Union until Mt. Vernon was officially born.
[Source: History of Jefferson County, Illinois; Compiled by: Continental Historical Bureau 1962, exerpts from pages 1 through 3 -- Submitted By: Cindy Ford]

Mt. Vernon
Mt. Vernon was founded June 7, 1819. It was just a few lines on a plat of eight blocks around a public square marked off with Mulberry poles.
Three months earlier, the county had been layed out and named for Thomas Jefferson.
  The three pioneers - Zadock Casey; Joseph Jordan and Fleming Greenwood - met at the home of William Casey to name the town.
         First there was a lot of talk for the name  Mount Pleasant, but admirers of George Washington got their way and it was named Mount Vernon.
           Wiliiam Casey's donation of 20 acres started it and 48 lots were laid off in an area bounded by North by Harrison Street; on South by Jordan, on East by Johnson Alley and on West by 11th street.
        Zadock Casey's name is perpetuated in the name of the Junior High School, which was erected on the site of his home.
       Joseph Jordan is perpetuated in the name of a street, but there is no memorial to Fleming Greenwood.
          When the town was layed out, it contained only four log houses. It grew to the biggest city in Southern Illinois and once was the seat of the Illinois Supreme Court.   [
FROM REGISTER NEWS JULY 29, 1972 - Sub. by Janice Staples]

BLUFORD, A Community spurred by the Railroad.
Originally there were two towns Bluford and Tilford, named for sons of Wiley Green,. They were located on either side of the Airline Railroad (Southern 1972). Constructed in 188-, when Tilford Green died, the Bluford name was adopted for the whole area.
It was the first community in Southern Illinois, officials say to receive a Federal Grant. It received 100,000 in 1963 to help build a water system.
Now Mt. Vernon sells Rend Lake Water to Bluford.
In 1964 the Webber Township Fire Protection district was formed with the station a mile North of Osbornes Store. There were  20 Volunteers when it opened in 1966 gas was piped to Bluford from Trunkline Gas about two miles West of Wayne City. [
FROM REGISTER NEWS JULY 29, 1972 - Sub. by Janice Staples]

In the early days trails were marked by a blaze hacked into a tree and were called one, two, and three hack roads. One hack marked a foot trail, two hacks marked a bridle path, and three hacks marked a wagon road.
The way trails came to be established in the early days was very simple. A path-finder went thru the wilderness in the general direction of his destination hacking or blazing a mark on an occasional tree as he passed as a guide for less experienced trail blazers to follow. Thus it became a foot trail, or a one hack road.
Then one day a man tried it on horseback, slashing back the branches that impaired his progress and adding another blaze to each marked tree, and so it became a bridle path for travel of horse and rider, or a two hack road.
Later some teamster had freight for the end of the trail and so he took ox carts or wagons and cleared a path that allowed them to pass and added still another blaze to each marked tree, and so it became a full fledged wagon road marked by three hacks on each tree.
Zadok Casey, who came to the Mt. Vernon area in 1817 was a politician, and he probably hurried so fast he never let his shirt tail touch him until he had blazed a trail to the capitol at Kaskaskia, crossing Knob Prairie en route, and so the old Kaskaskia Trail was born early in the history of the county. With the help of that old trail and what was at the end of it Zadok Casey finally became Lt. Governor.
In 1814 the Territorial Legislature had given the Shawneetown Land Office jurisdiction over all the land east of a line from about Cairo to Greenville, so a great many people from the Washington county settlements had to go to Shawneetown to buy land and settle title claims. Heading in the general direction of Shawneetown they hit the Old Goshen Trail in Moore's Prairie and thus the Shawneetown Trial was born. There was salt to be had at the
U. S. Salines near there so it became known as The Shawneetown-Equality Trail.
We don't know just when it became a Three Hack Road, but the Gilberts, Newells,and Places came over it with ox-carts and wagons loaded with plunder in the fall of 1839.
Washington County history says it was the second trail laid out in Washington county. The first being The Vincennes-Kaskaskia Trail over which a mail route was traveling in 1800. It is very likely that people from the Washington county settlements were traveling over the Shawneetown Trail before settlers arrived in the Mt. Vernon area as Washington county was settled first.
Knob Prairies, then, was served by two important highways even in the early days. Over the years several committees were sent out to view the Shawneetown Trail by the Officials of Washington, with the idea of making it into a public road, but none ever reported in so it kept the status of a trail in Washington county until the town-ship form of government was adopted in 1869.
Most early writers agree that it was much better to travel at will and avoid the bad places in the trail than to try to travel the official route of a poorly maintained public road. Nevertheless it was an opportunity for the taxing politicians to get their hand into the public pocket and somehow they managed to convince the people that the very thing they needed most was a tax supported public road, no matter how poor the service they got from it.
And so in 1845 the settlers in Knob Prairie started paying taxes to use the Old Kaskaskia Trail, or Pinckneyville Road as it was known then. A privilege they had enjoyed for free ever since they had come to this country.
Mr. & Mrs. Mac Hirons have a tax receipt from Jesse A. Dees, Supervisor of the Second Division of The Pinckneyville Road, to B. L. Hirons for .55 cents tax on the Pinckneyville Road for the year 1845.
It came to be a public road in this way:
In 1835 Isaac Casey, A. Buffington, and Jesse Green were sent out to view a road toward Pinckneyville, but they failed to make a report, and the next year it was assigned to John Dodds, I. A. Davenport, and William Hicks.
They located it by John Dodds' house, through Rhodan Allen's field across Knob Prairie, and on to the Brownsville Road, and thus it remained until the year the Gilberts, Newells, and Places came.
Then A. Melcher, I. Osborn, and J. A. Dees were sent out to see if it were not useless. They found that it certainly was for anybody but John Dodds and Rhodan Allen, and so there it died.
As you can see everybody wanted it to go by his house regardless of the inconvience to the travler.
After the changing routes several times it was finally laid out in 1845 by Sam Boswell, Sid Place, and Jesse A. Dees on a route suggested by Eli Gilbert and J. R. Allen. As most of these already lived on the old trail it followed that route for the most part and everybody was happy except that now they had to confine their travels to a strip 18 feet wide no matter how bad the mud holes got.
The Nashville-Shawneetown-Equality Road had been laid out following the old trail in 1838 under the direction of George Lee, Thomas Thompson, and George McCarey. NO doubt they all three lived on the road to start with.
So, by 1845 Knob Prairie was served by 2 public roads. Most people admitted that they, then, had some very expensive roads, but hardly any good ones. So says William Henry Perrin, a very reliable historian.

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